Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Poetic Math Challenge

Sharla Shults
Bay District Schools


Are you a ‘math poet?' Make math problems unique and interesting by allowing students to create and/or solve problems relating to real-world experiences incorporating rhythmic lines. A catchy line might save you time when solving a real-life problem!


The student writes fluently for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes, making appropriate choices regarding style, tone, level of detail, and organization.

Describes, analyzes and generalizes relationships, patterns, and functions using words, symbols, variables, tables and graphs.


-Eight colored file folders (may all be the same color or different colors)
-Eight decks of 10 problem cards each, 2 Whiny Cards, and 2 Bonus Cards (see Associated File)
-Eight bells, or similar noise makers, or flags
-32 number stickers for chairs
-Small number cards numbered from 1 to 10
-Container for problem number cards
-Medium seat identification number cards numbered according to number of students participating
-Container for seat number cards
-Eight plastic bags (gallon size)
-One calculator per table/station
-Four pencils per table/station
-One sheet of scratch paper for each student
-Download, print, and duplicate documents found in the associated file (See Teacher Preparation Steps #1, #8, #9 and #11
-Speed drill pre-game activity (optional) See Extensions below.


1. Type (optional) and/or duplicate cards using templates provided in Associated File. Laminate sheets if you so desire. Cut into playing cards and divide into stacks of 10 cards for distribution among 8 groups of 4 students. Duplicate 2 copies each of the Whiny Cards and Bonus Cards.
2. Make small number cards for problems numbering from1 to 10 and place in small container.
3. Make number cards for students numbering from 1 to 32 (or appropriate number for students participating in the activity) and place in different container.
4. Secure folders (one for each team) and mark folders with team identification numbers for signs. Make numbers, or use number stickers, for seats. Label each seat with a number corresponding to the number of students that are participating and arrange in random order.
5. Set up eight tables, or stations, of four students for the activity. Each table, or station, is clearly marked by team number. File folders work great here. Label each folder designating Team #1, Team #2, Team #3, etc. Stand the folders on the tables and secure with tape. When the competition is over, the folders are used to hold the group work.
(Refer to Step #9 under Lesson Procedures.)
6. Make flags. Flags can be made out of old file folders and round clothespins. Cut the folder along the fold into two parts. Fold each side of the folder into quarters and slide onto the clothespin. The pencils and cards can now be slipped into the pockets formed by the folder paper. These can be placed inside the folders that are standing on the tables for signs to be readily accessible to the students as they find their seats.
7. Prepare large zipper bags for each table containing calculator, 4 pencils, and a bell, or similar noisemaker, or flag, for the purpose of signaling completion of a problem to each table/station.
8. Download and duplicate activity sheets found in the associated file:
a) Poetic Math Challenge Score Sheet: One per table
b) Solutions Work Sheet: One per student
9. Download and duplicate the following documents found in the associated file to be used in formative assessments.
a) Poetic Math Challenge Critera Checklist for Assessment - one per student
b) Information Sheet for Assessment of Poetic Math Challenge - one per student
c) Poetic Math Challenge Asessment - one per student
d) Poetic Math Challenge Asessment Answer Key - one copy for teacher use
10. Type the 12 problems selected, if students have created their own problems, and make transparencies for display during the Poetic Math Challenge.
11. Optional: Download, print, and make transparencies of sample poetic math problems if not using already prepared student-created problems for the activity.

Before duplicating any materials, please read the following:

Playing card templates: When duplicating the playing cards, reproduce from one-sided to two-sided with the number on the front and a problem on the back.

Score Sheet: I have assigned point values according to the sample problems included. Change these point values to fit the criteria addressed in the problems created in your classroom. Another alternative would be to take your problems selected and match their difficulty factor to the sample Score Sheet point values.

Solutions Work Sheet: When duplicating the Solutions Work Sheet, reproduce from one-sided to two-sided. This saves paper and eliminates copying the same paper twice.


INTRODUCTION (This may be completed on the day prior to the activity.)
Prior to the activity ask students what part of mathematics do they most often try to avoid or invariably leave out of their homework assignments? Of course, their response usually is the word problems! Tell students from the beginning that this is an integral part of the study of both mathematics and language arts which is critical to passing the FCAT. Emphasize the importance of both reading and understanding the problem to be solved and provide examples of problem solving using Think, Solve, and Explain format! Distribute copies of the Poetic Math Challenge Criteria Checklist for Assessment and discuss the expectations with the class the day before the challenge.

NOTE: To use this lesson as a mathematics stand alone without the language arts component, the templates located in the associated file contain student-created problems from the original game. These may be duplicated and reproduced as cards eliminating Steps #1 - #3 below and the language arts portion of the assessment.

1. Students work in advance with their Language Arts teachers and create three poetic math problems complete with solution keys. These are written using math vocabulary, whenever possible, with lines that rhyme in the context of real-life situations. Students demonstrate working knowledge of literary terms using at least two literary devices. (See Weblinks below.)

2. Engage students in creative writing of the poetic math problems and encourage them to relate to real-life experiences of their own. Ask students questions that guide them in the right direction. Give rhythmic hints along the way. (Hint: Use the sample problems in the associated file as examples as needed if students are creating their own. Don't overkill with examples. Allow students to be creative!)

3. Select 10 problems for inclusion in the Poetic Math Challenge. Assign point values to each problem depending upon the level of difficulty, using a scale of 1 to 5 with one being the easiest to solve and five being the hardest. Select two additional problems to represent the Whiny Cards and the Bonus Cards. Type the 12 selected problems using the templates provided in the associated file.*

*Note: Save the templates of the cards in the associated file that contain sample student-created problems. Delete the problems from each card and resave as a blank template, then type the new problems.

1. As students enter the room on the day of the activity, instruct each to draw a number from the container containing the numbers representing the number of seats for their designated seat during the challenge.

2. Once students are seated, each student assumes one of the following four roles: 1) Team Manager, 2) Calculator, 3) Recorder, and 4) Signaler (flag waver). (See Extensions)

3. With student assistance, distribute plastic bags containing a calculator, 4 pencils, and a bell, or similar noisemaker, or flag, for the purpose of signaling completion of a problem to each table/station. Place one copy of the Poetic Math Challenge Score Sheet at each table/station. Inform the Recorder to print the names of all four members on the Poetic Math Challenge Score Sheets with their assigned roles.
(See Associated File.) Distribute a Solutions Work Sheet to each student. (See Associated File.) Place a stack of 10 cards face down on each table numbered from 1 to 10. Each card contains a poetic math problem on the back.

4. Select one student in the class to draw a number from the container containing the numbers 1 to 10. Display the problem drawn on the overhead and read aloud (THINK mode). When the time is called to begin, each group turns over the corresponding card at the table and begins solving the problem in the appropriate box on the Solutions Work Sheet (SOLVE mode). The group finishing first rings the bell (or noise maker) or waves the flag provided at the table and is given the opportunity to address the class with their solution*. At this time, all pencils must be down. One student works the problem on the overhead or board and explains how the solution is found (EXPLAIN mode). Allow a maximum of 60 seconds. If the solution and procedure are correct, the team is awarded the assigned number of points and the next problem is drawn. If the solution is incorrect, the next group to finish is given the same opportunity to present their solution. This procedure continues until all 10 problems are completed. Once a student has explained a problem, that student cannot explain again until all team members have participated in the explanation process.

*NOTE: An alternative method would be to have team numbers from 1 to 8 in a bowl. Give the students a time limit to solve each problem. Call stop, pencils down, at the end of the allotted time and draw a team number from the bowl. A member of that team must explain the problem to the class. If the problem is incorrect, then another team may raise its flag at this time and have the opportunity to explain and earn the points. Each number drawn is not replaced until every team has been given one opportunity to explain and earn points.

5. If a team receives the Whiny Card, that problem must be completed before the team can be awarded any points. This card is given for complaining, disruptive behavior, or non- participation. The Bonus Card is given when the teacher recognizes exceptional teamwork! This card adds 3 points to the total group score! Each table is eligible to receive the Bonus Card only once. If a team receives two Whiny Cards, it is disqualified from the competition and cannot earn points, but must continue working all problems.

6. The teacher, or student designee, records group points on the score sheet only as they are earned. The Recorder is responsible for determining the total number of group points earned and counting any bonus points accrued. Tell students to NOT record points in the column designated individual points earned. This is completed during the next lesson in the series (Lyrics Statistics). (See Weblinks below.)

7. After the competition cycle is over, students staple their individual papers to the Poetic Math Challenge Score Sheets that now serves as the cover sheets. The Recorder then removes the sign folder from the table, places the papers inside the folders, and turns all work in to the teacher. Pencils and cards are placed in the pockets of each flag (see #6 under Teacher Preparation) and collected along with the calculators.

8. Formatively assess the students’ group work using the Poetic Math Challenge Criteria Checklist. (see Associated File)

9. Check students' Poetic Math Challenge Solutions Sheets and formatively assess indicating which problems and/or strategies are correct or incorrect. (See Associated File for solutions key.) Keep documents in students' folders. Return individual team folders to students for statistics evaluation in the next lesson in the series (Lyrics Statistics). (See Weblinks below.)

10. As a conclusion to the Poetic Math Challenge, discuss with students the areas of difficulty. It is interesting to find that most errors are not mathematical at all. It is in the READING of the problem! Emphasize the importance of reading the problem completely and concentrating on answering the question asked! It is also interesting to note that not all individual score sheets within a group are the same. What does this suggest about cooperative learning? Emphasize that group activities involve working together and checking the accuracy of each other’s work to make sure everyone understands the concepts!

11. Distribute the Information Sheet for Assessment of Poetic Math Challenge and go over thoroughly with students. Instruct students to rough draft two original poetic math problems for homework to use as reference on the assessment the next day. Formatively assess students' understanding of the problem-solving process in the Think, Solve, and Explain format, and writing ability of the original poetic math problems. (See Associated File.) This assessment is administered on the day after the conclusion of the Poetic Math Challenge.


Formatively assess the students’ group work using the “Poetic Math Challenge” Criteria Checklist. (see Associated File).

Formatively assess students individually using the assessment found in the associated file.

Part l: Students are given three teacher-created problems in the Think, Solve, and Explain format to analyze relationships to solve problems,

Part ll: Students write 2 problems of their own in poetic form, complete with answer and solution key in Think, Solve, and Explain format demonstrating writing ability as well as understanding of concepts.


NOTE: Optional speed drill pre-game activity: After students are seated and the required data is recorded on the Poetic Math Challenge Score Sheets, engage the students in a warm-up activity before beginning the math challenge. This stimulates the brain activity to shift into the mathematical mode! Have a transparency sheet of speed drills set up on the overhead. (See Associated File for Speed Drill Warm-Up.) Have students complete the drills using vocabulary words and reading as the main focus. After completion, review for understanding and accuracy. Then, let the games begin!

Web Links

Web supplement for Poetic Math Challenge
Lyrics Statistics

Web supplement for Poetic Math Challenge
William J Dean, Technical High School, MCAS help for students

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